Often touted as the greatest American musical, “Gypsy” is the quintessential “show biz” story. Performed from a book by Arthur Laurents, with lyrics by the inimitable Stephen Sondheim and music by Jule Styne, “Gypsy” is a musical loosely based on the memoirs of renowned striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, focusing on her turbulent relationship with her over-bearing “show business” mother.
From April 20 through 22 and April 27 through 29, Langley High School’s Saxon Stage will be staging performances of “Gypsy,” under the direction of theater teacher and former Hollywood actress Valerie Karasek.
“This is a heartfelt celebration of family and life in the theatre – warts and all,” explained Karasek of her vision for this production. “We have embraced the ‘theatricality’ of the piece in order to place the primary focus on great story-telling.”
While “Gypsy” has risen to its place of prominence in American theater thanks to its timeless music and “glitz-and-glamour” story, the age of the performers is something to bear in mind when performing a play about a budding striptease artist. That being said, Karasek and her performers focused more on the examination of family dynamics as opposed to a more sultry creative direction.
“After a successful and well-received production of ‘Chicago’ last spring, we felt that our actors possessed the maturity and professionalism to tackle what many critics have deemed the greatest musical of the 20th century,” said Karasek. “Our decision to produce ‘Gypsy’ was based on its powerful storyline and brilliant musical score. The loving, yet dysfunctional family relationships and strong objectives of the characters are what move and inspire us, rather than Louise’s transition into a famous striptease artist, which doesn’t occur until late in the second act.”
Delivering the work of an industry titan like Sondheim is no easy feat, making “Gypsy” a challenge for this young cast to rise to. However, Karasek maintains the utmost confidence in her performers, ranging in age from the 1st grade to even a faculty member in one role.
“One of the most rewarding aspects has been watching these talented actors continue to stretch and grow as they explore very complicated and nuanced characters,” she said. “I had full confidence in our company of actors and techs who have proven time and again that they possess the focus, fortitude, and faith in each other to accomplish pretty much anything.”
She added: “This show will mean different things to different people, but it should invite healthy discussion. And there is no doubt that most everyone will depart humming their favorite song from the show. It’s a catchy score!”